What Do Microbes Have To Do With Homesteading?

So what are the activities that microbes make possible around the homestead? To name just four:

  • Fermentation
  • Beekeeping
  • Soil Fertility
  • Human beings

Pretty important stuff. In fact, new systems thinking, applied to our natural word, is demonstrating that things like human beings are really just symbiotic sacks of microbial life. An article in the Economist, “Microbes maketh man” discusses just how important microbes are to human health:

The traditional view is that a human body is a collection of 10 trillion cells which are themselves the products of 23,000 genes. If the revolutionaries are correct, these numbers radically underestimate the truth. For in the nooks and crannies of every human being, and especially in his or her guts, dwells the microbiome: 100 trillion bacteria of several hundred species bearing 3m non-human genes. The biological Robespierres believe these should count, too; that humans are not single organisms, but superorganisms made up of lots of smaller organisms working together.

Natural beekeeper Michael Bush has made the same argument about bees. Elaine Ingham has emphasized the importance of microbes in soil.

Mess with the complex interdependent relationships between microbes and people, soil etc. and you’re asking for trouble. This, for me, is the argument against things like GMOs, Miracle Grow or conventional chemical beekeeping. We don’t know enough, and probably never will know, how 100 trillion bacteria will react to our latest innovation. Best to be conservative when it comes to microbial life.

Looking forward to seeing more of this microbial paradigm shift in science.

Doomsday Preppers: Exploitative, Uninteresting, Unreal “Reality”

Doomsday Preppers, a series on the National Geographic channel, is part of a cloud of meaningless cable drivel that envelopes our national psyche like the smog that hangs over Los Angeles. In many ways Doomsday Preppers is indistinguishable from countless other low rent reality TV shows. Does anyone really sit down and watch this endless parade of house flippers, dance moms and custom motorcycle enthusiasts? Or is it all a kind of background, tranquilizing, electronic wallpaper?

I bring up Doomsday Preppers because many of its subjects are engaged in precisely the types of activities we write about on this blog and in our books: growing food, keeping livestock, building solar ovens, preserving food etc. And I finally got a chance to see the first episode and a few segments from later shows.

Of the three “compounds” profiled in the first episode, the most interesting was the family of Dennis McClung in Mesa, Arizona and the Kobler and Hunt families, who share a rural homestead. McClung has built an amazing tilapia farm in an old swimming pool in their backyard. They also have chickens and goats and have integrated the livestock into the greenhouse/tilapia project. It would have been interesting to see how the system McClung created works as a whole. But the producers were more interested in filming the family putting on gas masks and making duck weed smoothies. The Kobler and Hunt families operate what seems like a pretty normal rural homestead. What is unusual is their social arrangement: two families living together. It would have been interesting to explore that relationship. Instead the producers gave us endless scenes of the family shooting AR-15s.

Memo to the National Geographic folks: the internet has been bringing educational video content into living rooms for many years now, showing us how to actually grow tilapia, keep goats, etc. McClung, in fact, has his own website, gardenpool.org, which shows all the things I wanted to see on the TV show. Doomsday Preppers, on the other hand, has no redeeming educational content.

Continue reading…

Nominate Your Favorite Complainer

At least once every other month there’s some municipality that sees fit to bust a front yard vegetable garden. Last month some Quebec officials ordered the immaculate kitchen garden, pictured above, removed. You can sign a petition to save this garden here.

So what sane city official or neighbor would complain about this beautiful garden? It’s a complaint so outrageous, that it attains a kind of athleticism. Joking with some friends last weekend, we came up with the idea of creating an complaint competition patterned after the Olympics. People would complain and then a panel of judges would hold up signs, just like, say, diving or gymnastics.

The truth, of course, is that most complainers are lonely, clinically depressed people seeking attention. Or perhaps bureaucrats justifying their jobs in a recession. So the competition might give our complaint athletes just what they want: to be noticed.

But on this blog, a yearly complaint competition would give us a way to organize and round up the most outrageous complaints. With urban homesteading activities on the rise there will certainly be more of these unfortunate situations.

My personal favorite world champion complainers are the folks in one West Los Angeles neighborhood who successfully delayed a much needed light rail line for 20 years. Or the mayor of Toronto who is busy ripping up bike lanes. Or the countless folks who have complained about vegetable gardens, chickens, bees etc. 

Do you have a favorite complainer who should be nominated to participate in our complaint competition?  Comments!

The Trees are Rooting

Spotted in the latest edition of the SkyMall, this mash-up of sports marketing and the walking/talking tree things from Lord of the Rings. Yet another item to add to my catalog of questionable garden art.

Note from Kelly:  Ack!!! I can’t believe Erik posted this. These things are a crime against both nature and aesthetics–even more so than most items in the SkyMall catalog. And now, you too will have to live with this image burned in your brain. Apologies from the better half.

Of Man Caves and Woman Caves

I spotted this magazine yesterday at the checkout line in Home Depot. According to Manland, the “ultimate man cave site,” this magazine is “a special-edition magazine from the publishers of WOOD Magazine.” Paging Dr. Freud–WOOD Magazine sponsoring Man Caves? Will Rigid Tools be an advertiser? The Man Caves editors get to have lots of fun coining new words like “mantastic” and throwing around headlines like “Chromed-Up Harley Hangouts.”

From the preview on the Manland site, it seems Man Caves Mag delivers the usual man cave aesthetic package of neon beer signs, motorcycles and flat screen TVs. The editors of WOOD, promise that their Man Caves Magazine will “go behind the scenes to reveal what makes their personalized man space so popular—sometimes the most popular room in the entire house—and find out how they pulled it off on budget.”

Man Caves Mag caught my eye, because our friends at Zapf Architectural Renderings are working on a man cave remodel of the Root Simple garage. It will look something like this:

But seriously. Man Caves Magazine got me pondering gender equality issues. Why no Woman Caves Magazine? A haphazard Google image search for “woman cave” turned up things like this:

Looks like a room that’s never used.

I’m curious if Root Simple readers have man or woman caves. What activities take place in the woman cave? What room of the house does it occupy? Does your woman cave take up less square footage than the man cave? And gentlemen, if you have a homesteader’s man cave what’s in it? Is the man/woman cave trend just another manifestation of the decedent American clutter culture a UCLA study just documented? Comments!